Featured Pioneer Profile
Donald Watson Davis
(November 3, 1849 – June 4, 1906).
American Civil War veteran, reformed whiskey trader, merchant, newspaperman and rancher.
He partnered with Frank Strong in the Strong Ranch near Fort Macleod.
In 1887, Davis became Alberta's first Member of Parliament.
Davis was recently featured on the CBC podcast series, Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen
How to Enter
The deadline for submissions was Wednesday, August 2nd, the 139th anniversary of the passing of the "Branding Law".
The act of branding with fire-heated marks goes back to Ancient Egyptian times. There are many different reasons for branding; in some cases the symbols used were chosen as part of a magic spell to ward off harm and it was also a method used to mark ownership of both people (slaves) and livestock. The branding of livestock has not changed since hieroglyphics were burned into cowhide and its use in the late 1800's was an effective means of claiming ownership of cattle grazing on the open range.
Open range grazing allowed cattle from multiple ranches to graze freely together. The branding marks ensured that cowboys would be able to accurately round up cattle from each ranch prior to the drive to market. In a period of history with high illiteracy, the cowboys could always read the brand, and thus speak knowledgeably about the ranch and owner. Brands became so numerous that it became necessary to record them in books, which were often carried by the cowboys. Laws were passed regarding registration and inspection, with fines imposed on transgressors.
Many ranches were known more by their brand symbol than by the actual owner. Brands could be sold and transferred, but many were passed down through generations of ranchers as a symbol of pride to the family or ranch. As technology advanced, ranchers moved away from the practise of hot branding, but with today's livestock prices and struggling economy there has been a return to the use of branding due to increase in thefts of cattle. It seems even in our modern society nothing can beat the hot iron as a symbol of ownership. "Trust your neighbours, but brand your stock".
Most brands include capital letters and numerals, often combined with other symbols such as a circle, a half circle, a slash, or a bar. Some brands are simple pictures, and are "called" by a short description of the picture "rising sun". Brands are called from left to right, top to bottom, and from the outside in.
The first brand book was compiled in the Northwest Territories in 1888 by James Henderson and printed by W.T. Walker, a publishing company out of Winnipeg.
This book contained the bylaws of the Alberta Stockgrowers Association. It also contained the first ordinance to be enacted for the marking of stock, which included a list of early registered brands and the ranchers who owned them.
The Henderson Directory Company of Winnipeg, published the second edition of the brand book in 1889 and the third edition in 1894. A supplement was printed in 1896 and the fourth edition was published in 1898.
The Calgary Herald tackled the enormous task of printing the next brand book in 1900, another edition in 1903 and a supplement in 1904.
By 1905, the Government Printers of the Territories had accepted the responsibility of printing the brand book.